Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Annie Albright


I pickled cucumbers that day
but as I was slicing the cucumbers I cut my thumb
and a drop of blood fell in the pickling liquid
a drop of salt in salt
and I was reminded
of the specimens in my medical school anatomy lab
livers and kidneys and brains suspended in formaldehyde like
fetuses in the womb
still, and bloated, and beautiful
and I was briefly envious
because brine preserves
and blood keeps

we ate them later, still
the pickles
sweet and bitter and cold


Rat Chaplain

between beeps and whirs
in hallways too still and dark to question his credentials
the rat chaplain
holds an apologetic tail aloft like a cincture
and his whiskers brush the sterile walls with a whisper

because he knows he doesn’t belong in this house of healing
but what good chaplain ever did belong
what prayer shouted aloud was listened to with such grace
as the rat chaplain’s whispered pleas
the angels whose ear is reserved for those who pray meekly
lean in
to devote the earth

because the rat chaplain knows the window ledge overlooking the courtyard littered with cigarette butts and soiled masks and untethered paper bracelets like broken daisy chains
and on the ledge, nourished by a decaying turkey sandwich grows a patch of four-leaf clover

and the nursery where it is always early
as he weeps his happy tears cling to the fur on his paws and he baptizes the newborns in wicker and salt
and he sneaks away before their parents realize the trick of the rat chaplain

and in the morgue where it is always late
he knows the morgue where he promises the dead will not be lonely
and he is the only one who means it
for he is the only one who will be there through their baptism back into the earth

understand that the rat chaplain’s clerical collar is a ragged red thread is a broken daisy hain is a noose is a liferaft.

as he prays
his touch a tonic
a reminder
that memory’s whisper is never over
and life has no end
of four leaf clovers



it’s called air hunger for a reason
to say, I can’t breathe around you means
I am starving for you
so breathe for me
and then exhale
for coffee mugs stain and when gums bleed they bleed bright red
we are not empty
we are not cups to be half anything
not optimists or pessimists
or the idealist
just hands waiting for water
not to drink
but to trickle slowly through your fingers and down your palms
To wet the hollows between your wrists and then evaporate from the heat of my pulse



everyone deserves a friend at the end of the world
I found mine sitting cross-legged on the pastel lego blocks we had for chairs
her knees pretzeling inwards like a state fair confection
and her hands a twisted prayer
and her lips a song

she was reading East of Eden
and she greeted me with the word
which means thou mayest
but also thou mayest not
and she held that fragile half with grace
like an eggshell
defrauded of of it’s yolky light

we stole popcorn kernels from the kitchen
placed them in our left pockets
and moved one to the right pocket when the doorway sneered
and my pockets were lopsided and rattled

and she held my hand as I vomited over and over and over and i said i felt empty and she said that sounds about right

and I watched the wounds on her legs knit back together
across the border of her ducky pajama shorts

and we shared the pain of broken bones mending across jagged edges
and we shared the crystal callouses the healing left behind

one day she was not at breakfast, or therapy afterwards
and I knew her healing was not done

thou mayest
or mayest not
and it surprised me that I imagined the tendrils of a bloody yolk weeping from that shattered egg

and my crystal callouses became glassy moths
that glide
on jagged wings and jagged moonlight
East over Eden

I dare not hope for reunion with my end of the world friend
but I will wait for the door
and I will wait gladly,
holding a broken half of timshel
and with a popcorn kernel in my right pocket
hoping that this dungeon will not be lonely again
and not


The Organs Play

We dance while the organs play
And pray
Flutes and valves and keys sing with their throats wide open, like a frog
With a throat as taught as a balloon as wet as glass
Throwing its voice across the pews
Here, an offering
More fragile than the eggshell more necessary than the egg
The organs play
And we rise
And we dance
And we are unsteady
Cupping our offerings at our throats

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